Skip to main content

Dramatic SpaceX video shows Falcon 9 rocket land, topple over, and explode

SpaceX Barge
Elon Musk
It comes down gently enough. And the all-crucial touchdown at least looks perfect. But straight after landing, it’s abundantly clear that all is not well. The Falcon 9 rocket ever so slowly starts leaning to one side before toppling over and exploding in a ball of flames.

SpaceX’s third try at landing a rocket on a floating barge ended in failure again on Sunday after a problem with one of its landing legs.

Frustratingly for viewers, a live online feed showing the mission cut out seconds before the 69-meter-tall rocket came down, though SpaceX boss Elon Musk later posted a video of the fiery landing on Instagram.

In an accompanying message, the CEO wrote, “Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn’t latch on one the four legs, causing it to tip over post landing.” He added that the “root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff.”

The dramatic close-up footage, filmed by an on-platform camera, appears to suggest a perfect touchdown, with the rocket coming in slowly and perfectly upright. However, the issue with the landing leg meant it never had a chance.

Still, the team says it still feels “optimistic” about the challenge and is determined to try another barge landing before too long. Perfecting both land and sea touchdowns will give SpaceX more options when it comes to planning future missions.

Last month the team successfully landed a Falcon 9 on land, a major achievement as SpaceX continues in its quest to build a reusable rocket system to drastically reduce the cost of space travel.

Sunday’s mission, meanwhile, saw an older version of the Falcon 9 carry NASA’s Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite into low-Earth orbit before the rocket’s explosive return to Earth.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA footage shows SpaceX Crew-4 training for ISS mission
SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts.

NASA has shared raw footage of SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronauts training for their space station mission that’s set to get underway in just a few days' time.

The 30-minute reel (below) shows NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, along with Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, undergoing a range of training techniques to prepare them for the ride to and from the International Space Station (ISS), as well as their six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Read more
Watch the key moments from SpaceX’s spy satellite launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket heading to space.

SpaceX successfully launched a spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on the morning of Sunday, April 17.

The NROL-85 mission launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 6:13 a.m. PT (9:13 a.m. ET).

Read more
How to watch SpaceX launch a U.S. spy satellite today
COSMO-SkyMed mission ready for launch.

SpaceX will shortly be launching a satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in a mission called NROL-85. The launch will use one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets to carry the NROL-85 spacecraft into orbit and will take place from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The launch will be livestreamed, and we've got the details on how to watch along at home.

NROL-85 Mission

Read more